Manitoba Moves to Reduce Phosphorous in Lake Winnipeg

By Sarah Klein

Lake Winnipeg (FILE)

The Manitoba government unveiled a plan Thursday meant to protect the province’s water and save Lake Winnipeg from increasing levels of phosphorous.

Part of the plan will be to reduce the amount of phosphorous levels in the lake by 50 percent, as recommended in a five-year study commissioned by the province. Doing so will reverse regular algae blooms and return the lake to a pre-1990 state.

“The stakes are too high and the time to take action is now,” Premier Greg Selinger said. “Lake Winnipeg is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and it’s in trouble. We must take the steps necessary to preserve the lake and make it safe for generations of Manitobans to enjoy.”

As it stands, phosphorous levels in Lake Winnipeg are three times higher than they were in Lake Erie, when the body of water was referred to as being “dead.”

To help reduce phosphorous, the province will work to keep hog manure out of the lake by:

  • Banning any new hog industry expansion that does not use advanced environmental practices to protect water;
  • Enshrining in legislation a permanent ban on winter spreading of manure; and
  • Doubling funding for best environmental management practices that protect water and introducing a new tax credit to help farmers acquire new environmental technologies to treat manure responsibly.

Modernization of sewage treatment in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba by:

  • Requiring the City of Winnipeg to replace its North End Sewage Treatment Plant with a full Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Plant to keep pollutants out of the lake. Within a year, the city will be required to produce a plan on how it will meet strict limits of pollutant removal. The plan will then have to go to the Clean Environment Commission and the Public Utility Board (PUB) to ensure ratepayers are protected.
  • Enshrining in legislation planning rules to ensure no new subdivisions outside city limits are built without an approved wastewater management plan.

Protecting Manitoba’s wetlands by:

  • Restoring natural filters like the Netley-Libau Marsh that keep pollutants from entering the lake by investing in projects like cattail harvesting that reduce nutrient loading to the lake and rebuilding the marsh through innovative pilot projects;
  • Putting new powers in place to protect wetlands on Crown land; and
  • Banning the rapid expansion of peat extraction from wetlands.

The province will host an international summit in the coming year to bring stakeholders together and levels of government throughout the Lake Winnipeg watershed to co-ordinate phosphorous reductions.

— With files from the Province of Manitoba